Alvin Purple (Roadshow) (1973)
Main Menu Introduction
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Biographies-Crew-Tim Burstall (Director)
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1973|
|Running Time||92:48 (Case: 97)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (67:07)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Tim Burstall|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Alvin Purple has a problem: women are always chasing after him. In a lengthy soft-focus flashback sequence, we see that he had this problem as a schoolboy, with girls wanting him to help them with their "homework". As an adult, Alvin finds it hard to resist the advances of women. Unable to find a steady job until he teams up with a friend to sell waterbeds, he is unsatisfied with his encounters with women. Even psychiatry does not seem to help. But he does feel something for Tina, one girl he does not bed. Will Alvin find true happiness?
When released in 1973, Alvin Purple was highly controversial, both due to its subject matter and the frequent nudity and innuendo. Seen today it is hard to work out what the fuss was all about. It certainly does not go anywhere near as far as films like Baise-Moi or Romance in depictions of sex. In fact, it is rather coy at times. The difference between Alvin and these more recent films is the tone. Where contemporary film-makers seem determined to camouflage the smut with excessive seriousness, Alvin is a light-hearted, good-natured fantasy that still manages to skewer aspects of the so-called sexual revolution of the Seventies. Alvin's resolution early in the film to overcome his problem and usher in the "sexless Seventies" lasts about two seconds, and while he may see his excessive prowess with women as a problem, his psychiatrist correctly points out that he is just very normal. But his story is the fantasy of many men: to be pursued by lustful women after only one thing. In a sense this is a reversal of the usual roles, and the females become the predators rather than the victims. The likeability of the central character and much of the comedy comes from the fact that he does not look anything like the typical stud.
Various aspects of the burgeoning sexual revolution are held up to ridicule: psychiatry, waterbeds, the legal profession and its double standards, the media and anything else the writer could think of. Alan Hopgood wrote the screenplay, and a very good one it is. The film has a believable narrative (if you accept the central conceit), and the story is well-paced. There are a lot of double-entendres, but these are mostly delivered with a straight face, without the nudge-nudge wink-wink you associate with similar British films of the era. The film is lively and still quite funny, even after more than thirty years, though the pace does sag a little towards the end.
Graeme Blundell will be forever associated with this character, much to his chagrin apparently. He is a likeable and believable Alvin, managing to create a sympathetic character and avoiding any tendency to overact. He is a deft comedy player and his timing is impeccable in this film. The supporting cast is generally very good. Penne Hackforth-Jones plays the repressed female psychiatrist quite well, as does George Whaley as the other psychiatrist Dr McBurney. There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast, such as brief bits by Jacki Weaver, Alan Finney, Abigail, Jill Forster and Dennis Miller. Noel Ferrier has an amusing role as a judge. The Elke Neidhart who appears as one of Alvin's clients in the movies shown in the courtroom scene is recognisably the Elke Neidhardt who is directing the Wagner Ring cycle being performed in Adelaide at the time of writing.
Alvin must have touched a chord with viewers in 1973, as it was a major box office success. At this time the number of films with sexual themes was on the up. The 'R' certificate had just been introduced, and soft-core films from Europe played the smaller theatres. American films had more and more nudity and sex, so it was inevitable that Australia would follow suit. In fact, after Alvin there was a flood of "naughty" films, which would last throughout the rest of the decade. The sequel Alvin Rides Again quickly followed, as did a brief television series memorably pulled off the air by the aptly-named ABC Chairman Sir Henry Bland. There was another ill-advised sequel, Melvin, Son of Alvin in 1984. The first sequel is included on disc two of this two disc set, and that film is reviewed separately.
The film is presented on this disc in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio would have been 1.85:1, so we are not missing much here.
Although the film has not been fully restored, this is a fine transfer. The transfer is very sharp with a lot of detail visible. I suspect that the film has not looked as good since its original release. Technically, the film is quite well made but there are a few instances where it is obvious that the film was not made on a large budget. Some scenes where the backlighting overwhelms the screen making the characters indistinct should have been reshot. Thankfully this only happens a couple of times: when the young Alvin is talking with his teacher, and when the male psychiatrist is discussing Alvin's problems. There are also variations in the colour palette, with skin tones looking different in different shots. This is probably due to variations in the lighting. Again, this could have been corrected at the time by reshooting.
Contrast levels are good, with the whole transfer having a film-like appearance. This is helped by a healthy level of grain. The colour saturation seems to have been cranked up a little too much. For the most part the colours are vivid and lifelike, but there are some excessively bright reds in evidence. There is no colour bleeding, fortunately. Black are very solid with no noticeable low level noise. Whites are as pure as the original photography allows.
There are a couple of instances of aliasing on car grilles, but otherwise there are no film to video or MPEG artefacts.
Film artefacts tend to increase in frequency over the duration of the film. These mostly take the form of white flecks, with some occasional dirt and minor blemishes. There is nothing really to complain about apart from the reel change markings, such as at 33:17, 52:02 and 68:03. Even these are quite small in size.
Optional hard of hearing subtitles are provided. These are in a white font and are relatively large. They are thus easily read. They match the dialogue very well, with only the occasional paraphrasing or dropping of words. They are placed on the screen to match the location of the speaker, which may be helpful for those who are hard of hearing.
The layer change on this RSDL disc is well placed on a scene change at 67:07 and is barely noticeable.
There are two audio tracks provided, in Dolby Digital 5.1 (the default) and Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the latter and sampled the former.
The audio is very good, with clear dialogue and not very much to take issue with. The audio is not of reference quality, but you would not expect it to be. There is very little in the way of directional effects, with almost no subwoofer activity and very little in the way of rear channel effects. Both soundtracks are very much full frontal, with the two-channel mix sounding a little wider due to the the surround mix having a lot of centre speaker activity.
The music score is by Brian Cadd, who also sings the theme song heard during the opening and closing credits. The song was a chart success in its day, and the rest of the music score is very good. The chase sequences have music that is meant to be reminiscent of the Benny Hill chase music.
|Surround Channel Use|
A good selection of extras, with one fault. The cursor was not visible on the main menu screen, which meant that I had to guess where it was in order to access the submenus. The submenus do not have this problem, nor did it occur on my DVD-ROM drive.
A brief animated sequence prior to the main menu.
This ancient trailer appears when you choose the option to play the film.
This is a making of documentary that was screened on television at the time of the film's original release, and was made by Brian Trenchard-Smith. It is in pretty poor condition, with video tracking errors throughout and a grainy and aged look to it, with muffled audio to boot. It features clips from the film and interviews with the director and cast. Some of the clips are for sequences that do not appear in the final cut of the film, so it is valuable from that perspective as well as being a time capsule of 1970's attitudes. A humorous sequence involves Blundell discussing the problems of shooting sequences in the nude, mainly that of what to do if he had a rush of blood, so to speak.
A series of interviews with background to the production of the film. The interviewees are Burstall, Blundell, Finney, Robin Copping (cinematographer), Hopgood, Weaver and Eli McLure (Tina), the latter looking a lot older than in 1973.
An original trailer from 1973, this is in 1.33:1 and in average condition.
A text biography and filmography of the director.
Filmographies of Blundell, Hopgood, Copping and Finney.
Promotional material and behind-the-scenes photos, presented as continuous footage with the theme song playing in the background.
This Region 4 release seems to be the only release in any region.
One of the best Australian comedies ever, it stands the test of time well.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is very good.
A nice selection of extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|